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French medicines agency warns not to use nasal decongestant cold medicines over stroke risk

Sudafed and other common nasal decongestants containing pseudoephedrine are on display behind the counter at Hospital Discount Pharmacy in Edmond, Oklahoma in the US in 2005.
Sudafed and other common nasal decongestants containing pseudoephedrine are on display behind the counter at Hospital Discount Pharmacy in Edmond, Oklahoma in the US in 2005. Copyright AP Photo, FILE
Copyright AP Photo, FILE
By Lauren Chadwick
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France's medicines agency warned people not to take oral nasal decongestant medicines containing pseudoephedrine over potential risk of strokes.

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France's medicines agency has warned people not to take common nasal decongestants containing pseudoephedrine due to a low risk of stroke or heart attack linked to them.

"The message is clear. Do not use them. We do not risk getting a stroke for a stuffy nose," Christelle Ratignier-Carbonneil, the director of France's National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM), told public broadcaster FranceInfo.

The medicines include Actifed Rhume, Doliruhm Paracetamol and Pseudoephedrine, and Humex Rhume among others.

Many are available as oral tablets without a prescription or as a nasal spray with a prescription, the ANSM said.

In the UK, the active ingredient is marketed under the brand names Sudafed, Galpseud, Boots Decongestat and Care Decongestant.

Pseudoephedrine works by narrowing the blood vessels in your nose but it can also narrow blood vessels in other parts of the body, which can increase blood pressure and heart rate.

'Premature and alarmist'

The French medicines agency said there is an ongoing review of these medicines at the European level.

Instead of taking a nasal decongestant, the ANSM recommends that people humidity their noses with salt water spray, sleep with their heads elevated, drink enough fluids, and aerate their living spaces.

Ratignier-Carbonneil added on FranceInfo that the goal is that the medicines containing pseudoephedrine are eventually no longer sold in pharmacies.

Pseudoephedrine has also been subject to greater control in some countries, including being subject to some restrictions in 2007 and 2008 in the UK because it can be used illegally to manufacture methylamphetamine.

Meanwhile, one of the active ingredients used to replace pseudoephedrine in some nasal decongestants, another drug called phenylephrine, was recently deemed ineffective by US regulators.

The French lobby for pharmaceutical companies making over-the-counter medicines NèreS argued that the ANSM's warning was "premature and alarmist".

The lobby said it was participating in the safety re-evaluation but said that the report was not yet published.

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